A MELBOURNE STORM MENAGERIE

So here’s the thing: I never really wanted to write a Confessions piece about Billy. Slater, that is, for those of you currently residing under a rock.

Now before you all go hitting ‘send’ on the ‘You are cordially invited to a lynching’ emails, hear me out. I have a good reason.

I just don’t like him much.

Pitchforks down, people – I’m kidding. Obviously.

I actually think Billy is rather ace, and this is exactly what makes him a difficult subject. Much has been said about Billy and his ace-ness and I really don’t want to cover old ground. Yes, he is a Storm, Queensland and Australian superstar (old news). Yes, he is super fast (duh). Yes, he scores many spectacular tries (yawn).

That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that Melbourne Storm fans will not appreciate this reluctance to cover one of their favourite sons. So this week I set about trying to find a way to ensure the most up-close and personal of insights. Straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

And seeing as there were no horses available for comment, I decided to go to the next best thing. Not a horse, but a dog, a rabbit and a parrot.

So here’s the first fun Billy fact: Billy not only shares his home with wife Nicole, and two munchkins Tyla (3) and Jake (18 months), but with Puggles the Pug, Charlie the Mini Lop rabbit and Lewy the Grey African parrot.

And it’s Puggles, Charlie and Lewy who sat down with me to share their exclusive views* on living with the man himself.

Me: Thanks everyone for joining me today to chat about Billy. How are we all feeling?

Charlie (the rabbit): Delighted to be making my media debut. Does my fur look okay?

Me: It’s not a TV interview, Charlie. How bout you Lewy?

Lewy (the parrot): Peachy keen. Wait – so, Billy is the one that gets around in purple all the time, right? Sorry, I’m new here.

Me: Yes Lewy. And you, Puggles?

Puggles (the Pug): (Doesn’t hear the question as she is straining her neck to see where Billy is sitting in the lounge room. Looks decidedly anxious to be forced to sit somewhere other than at his feet).

Me: Perhaps we’ll start with you, Charlie, an obvious question: have you ever been concerned that Billy might ask you to volunteer your foot as a good luck charm?

Charlie: Heavens no! I need all of my feet for hopping and other bunny activities. As well as general symmetry, of course. Actually I don’t think he has a good luck charm as such, but he certainly has an unusual game day habit…

Me: Sounds interesting, do tell…

Charlie: He announces everything that he’s doing to the household-

Lewy: (interjects) Yeah! Like, he’ll say really loud, “I’M JUST GOING TO WATCH TV ON THE COUCH FOR A WHILE NOW” or “NOW I’M GOING TO GO FOR A WALK AND READ THE PAPER”. It’s super weird…

Me: So the usual match-day stuff, but with a running commentary – fascinating. And you mentioned going for a walk, Puggles, I assume you would accompany Billy on these and any other walking activities?

Puggles: Yep, that’s me, number one walking buddy. Actually, number one favourite pet and golden child to be specific (Puggles glares at the bird and the rabbit). I’ve been around for the longest, you see. (Puffs out chest) 

Me: Of course. But Billy’s pretty fast – commentators used to call him ‘Billy See-You-Later’ – do you have trouble keeping up with him?

Puggles: No way, man. These legs might look stumpy, but I’m pretty speedy.

Me: Now Lewy, your cage is situated in view of the kitchen – does Billy have any interesting eating habits we should know about?

Lewy: Does he ever – the man eats all the time!! I thought the dog inhaled everything in sight, but Billy is nearly as bad.

Me: Anything strange or unusual?

Lewy: You bet – he likes to get 3 or 4 different cereals and mix them together and eat them all at once.

Me: How odd – kind of like a cereal mixiologist?

Lewy: Exactly. Wait – a what?

Me: Never mind. So is it just custom cereal blends or does he have other kitchen talents? I know when Hoffy and Billy lived together that Billy cooked a mean roast – have his cooking talents developed since then?

Charlie: Well, I haven’t been around since then, so I couldn’t say, but I do notice he is very possessive of his barbecue…

Puggles: Absolutely. The barbie is Billy’s zone only. Well, I’m allowed to hang out there with him but no one else. Not even Nicole.

Me: How about desserts? Does he have a sweet tooth?

Lewy: Sure does! Tim Tams especially. Sometimes he eats too many and Nicole has to put them out of reach. And not only out of reach, but out of tackling distance. Honestly, you humans and Tim Tams, I’ll never understand.

Charlie: So true! Are they really as good as lettuce leaves?

Me: I reckon they just might be, Charlie. Now tell me, TV watching habits – what’s the story?

Charlie: Our favourite channel is National Geographic, obviously, but if Billy has the remote it’s sport, sport, sport and more sport. But as soon as he’s out the door, Nicole and I get to catch up with the Kardashians and Summer Bay. Bliss…

Me: So Billy’s not a Kardashian fan, that kind of surprises me. On the topic of watching sport, do you guys watch Billy’s games?

Puggles/Lewy/Charlie: (A cacophony of agreement)

Me: Okay, okay, I take it that’s a yes. Now, aside from Billy, who’s your favourite player?

Lewy: Well, Billy’s always talking about this guy Danger who doesn’t stop chirping all day. I think that kind of sounds like me so he’s my favourite.

Charlie: Hmmm. There used to be this guy a while ago who had teeth like mine – I think his name was Finchy? He was my favourite ‘cause we’re teeth buddies…

Puggles: Do I really have to pick someone other than Billy?

Charlie: (rolls eyes) Teacher’s pet….

Me: No pun intended? And no Puggles, you don’t have to pick someone else. Okay, this is the one I’ve been dying to ask someone. We all know the things Billy is good at, but is there anything he’s really bad at?

Charlie/Puggles/Lewy: (Silence)

Me: Come on guys, there must be something.

Hoffy: (interjects from the couch where he’s being pretending to watch TV but he’s really eavesdropping) He’s rubbish at cricket!

Billy: (has similarly forgotten all pretence of trying not to listen) Whatever Hoff, I can take you any time.

Me: Oi – enough couch sledging you two, I’m trying to conduct an interview here. Go ahead guys.

Puggles: (Hesitantly) Weeeelllll, he’s really bad at losing. I don’t know if you have this problem with Ryan, but Billy is really competitive. You should see him play Monopoly – it’s frightening!

Me: I hear ya, sister. Anything else?

Charlie: (meekly) He’s a pretty average dancer.

Lewy: And singer. Totally tone deaf. And I would know.

Me: So epic football talent comes at the cost of performing arts ability? That seems fair somehow. Now one last question – do you know of any plans to expand your merry band of animal revellers anytime soon?

Charlie: There was talk of a guinea pig to keep me company for a while there but I think Billy has toed the line at the three of us. Actually, Tyla was playing outside the other day and befriended a fly, of all things, which she named Gareth Widdop… But sadly Gareth flew away and we haven’t seen him since.

Me: Wow. A fly named Gareth Widdop. Now I’ve heard it all. Well that’s all for now, thanks guys very much for your time, I’m sure the Melbourne Storm fans will really appreciate the insight.

Puggles: Hang on a minute! I don’t want to give my – I mean, Billy’s fans the wrong idea about anything so do I get to read it before it gets published?

Me: Don’t be ridiculous Puggles, dogs can’t read.

*With special thanks to Nicole Slater for ‘translating’.

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